Student-built app guides Smithsonian gallery visitors through ancient Asian art exhibit

Hyecho’s Journey, an app developed by a team of UM students, traces the historic pilgrimage of 8th century Korean monk Hyecho.

Visitors to the Smithsonian's Freer|Sackler Galleries in Washington DC will be guided through an exhibit on ancient Asian art by an app developed by a team of UM students through the Multidisciplinary Design Program. The exhibit and app trace the historic pilgrimage of 8th century Korean monk Hyecho to provide context for the exhibit.

Hyecho, at the age of eighteen, set out from China to begin a journey over land and sea that would take him through the Buddhist holy land of India, as far west as Iran, and back to northern China. Many monks did not survive this pilgrimage, and among those who did, none traveled farther than Hyecho.

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The Multidisciplinary Design Program team members include: (L-R) Elijah Sattler (CS), Eric Yeh (CS), Ha Nul Jun, Bailey Case (CS), and Sindhu Giri (SI/Art & Design). The team members that are not pictured are Rebecca Henry (School of Information), Wei Cai (School of Information), and Anders Boberg (CS).

Under the guidance of Prof. Sugih Jamin, the student team worked with experts at the Freer|Sackler Galleries in Washington D.C. to create an interactive map, an iPhone app, and an iPad app. The students included undergraduate CS students Anders Boberg, Bailey Case, Elijah Sattler, and Eric Yeh, as well as School of Information graduate student Wei Cai, School of Information undergraduate student Rebecca Henry, and SI/Art & Design dual major Sindu Giri. 

The app, called Hyecho’s Journey, consists of eight chapters that users can progress through. Each chapter consists of three main parts: Hyecho's story at that location, information about the item on display, and an interaction or game with the object. The apps allow visitors viewing the exhibition on Buddhist art, entitled “Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia”, to learn more about the Buddhist world Hyecho encountered on his pilgrimage.

The app is free and available for iPhone users to download.

The exhibition will run for three years and then it will likely travel to other galleries, including UMMA. The multidisciplinary team will also continue to work on Hyecho’s Journey to produce a book, a new undergraduate course, and a study abroad opportunity.

Posted: November 22, 2017